Severe Weather Hits Nationwide
By Aaron Pero
Sat Dec 7th, 2013 6:02am America/Los_Angeles
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — After cold rain and winds lashed the Southwest and other parts of the country Friday, millions of residents hunkered down for icy conditions expected to last through the weekend as the cold snap was forecast to continue causing problems and trekking northeast.
Face-stinging sleet, thick snow and blustery winds led to slick road conditions, school closures, power outages and event cancellations as the wintry blast dropped temperatures to freezing and below from Texas to Ohio to Tennessee on Friday.
In California, four people died of hypothermia in the San Francisco Bay Area while the region was gripped by freezing temperatures.
The weather created a strangely blank landscape out of normally sun-drenched North Texas: Mostly empty highways were covered in a sometimes impassable frost.
It forced the cancellation of Sunday’s Dallas Marathon, which was expected to draw 25,000 runners, some of whom had trained for months. A quarter of a million customers in North Texas were left without power, and many businesses told employees to stay home to avoid the hazardous roads.
Meanwhile, around 7 inches of snow fell in northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis. Ice accumulated on trees and power lines in Memphis and the rest of West Tennessee after layers of sleet fell throughout the region Friday.
The storm dumped a foot of snow and more in some areas of Illinois, with police scrambling to respond to dozens of accidents and forced scores of schools to remain closed.
Also, Western and central Kentucky were under winter storm warnings slated to last through late Friday or early Saturday. With warmer temperatures expected in eastern Kentucky, forecasters issued a flood watch into Saturday morning. In northern Kentucky, Covington police closed the Ohio River Roebling Bridge in both directions Friday afternoon due to icy conditions
Looking ahead to Saturday, the National Weather Service says a wind chill advisory is in effect for parts of northeast Arkansas and the Missouri boot heel. Forecasters say wind chill readings between zero and minus-5 degrees may occur.
Freezing rain and sleet are likely again Saturday night in Memphis, Nashville and other areas of Tennessee.
Some areas looked even further ahead, with Virginia officials warning residents of a major ice storm likely to take shape Sunday, resulting in power outages and hazards on the roads.
Late Friday afternoon, emergency officials in Shelby County, Tenn., warned people to continue to stay off ice-slicked roads and highways into Saturday. Meteorologist John Moore said a layer of ice as thick as three-tenths of an inch could accumulate on roads, bridges and highways — including the Interstate 40 corridor — making driving perilous.
“It looks like we’re going to be stuck with this for one, two, maybe three days,” said Memphis attorney Sam Chafetz, who was going home early to enjoy some bourbon-soaked sweet potatoes left over from Thanksgiving.
“I’m not afraid of the ice and snow, I’m afraid of the other drivers who don’t know how to drive in it,” Chafetz said.
Shipping giant FedEx, which has its worldwide hub in Memphis, was monitoring the situation with its team of meteorologists, company spokesman Scott Fielder said. Delivery delays may occur in areas where the storm caused unsafe driving and flying conditions, he warned.
Ice had built up on the windshields and roofs of parked cars throughout Memphis on Friday. In Shelby County, which includes the city, crews spread a mixture of salt and cinders on the streets to combat the ice, while business owners also put salt on sidewalks in front of their stores. Law enforcement reported an increase in traffic crashes, and scattered power outages affected more than 3,000 people, emergency and utility officials said.
Residents were told to prepare for a few days without power, prompting them to rush to stores to stock up on groceries, buy electricity generators and gas up their cars. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell reminded residents to check on family and friends who are elderly, disabled or live alone.
In Nashville, organizers canceled the Christmas parade. The annual St. Jude Memphis Marathon, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled as well.
Sleet also fell in Dyer County, Tenn., where one shelter was on standby and farmers worked to protect crops and livestock.
“We’re still getting a lot of sleet falling and roads are slushy and kind of slick,” said James Medling, emergency management director for Dyer County.
Friday’s storm stretched from South Texas, where anxious residents bagged outdoor plants to protect them from the cold, through the Midwest and Ohio Valley and up into northern New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
Police in Arlington, about 20 miles west of Dallas, reported one driver was killed when his car slammed into a truck. Authorities in Oklahoma reported two weather-related traffic deaths.
Storms this week had already dumped 1 to 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and draped many communities in skin-stinging cold. The temperature in parts of North Dakota on Thursday was a few degrees below zero, but wind chill pushed it to nearly 40 below.